March 4, 2014

Before & After: Our Loft

Do you remember when I felt like Norman Bates’ mom in Psycho in my rocking chair when I first moved in to our house last year?
And if you don’t, it’s probably better that way.  Louie, our youngest, was only a few months old, and most of our house was torn down to the studs so I spent a lot of time looking rocking the baby in the only “finished” space, our upstairs loft.  It was during that time that the view out the window captured my heart.  In the early mornings, I’d see deer frolicking- they seriously frolick… it’s like little pups or goats wrestling- and watch the sunrise, and I noticed as the leaves went from green to golden.  It was even beautiful to me when the trees were bare and I could see the creepy crows lined up on the branches.

{There’s my spot…  that swivel glider saw a ton of use last year…  We lived up there for months, the wall half pink-beige and have ivory… studs exposed in our little living room/ “kitchen” which really stands for “microwave sitting on a dresser”}
But the time in the loft was well-spent because it got me thinking that I wanted a massive window so I could take in the view even when I wasn’t in the rocker.  I wanted the room to feel like it was outside because there was so much happening out there all the time.
We spend so much time in the loft.  It’s where we wrestle, read, watch movies, play games, hang out…  Our boys’ bedrooms are off of the loft so they don’t keep toys in their bedroom, which makes clean up sooo much easier.
Here’s what it looked like before we moved in:
Of course, when we took out the built-ins and carpeting just before moving in, the entire room felt ripped to shreds.
The room was narrow and I realized that the only way to really get as much out of the view as possible was to create a window seat, so -after months of debating- we decided to go for it:
Now, it’s one of the BEST spots in our house.  We love it up there!!  We can all pile on it and snuggle up.  We do a lot of reading there.  Sometimes we camp out there.  (It’s fifteen feet wide and three feet deep) During one of our snow storms this Winter, there was a full moon one night and it was so bright we could see everything clearly.  After we put the boys to bed, Dave & I hung out on the window seat and watched a deer family walk around out there and bed down under a pine tree for shelter.  (They kept getting up and coming back to the same spot so I eventually did a little research and found that deer only sleep for something like 30 seconds at a time, often with their eyes open.  Sounds exhausting but I guess that’s what keeps them alive.)  Watching the deer  make their rounds, we ended up falling asleep there too and it was so nice.  I’m not sure it’ll ever happen again, but I loved it.
We also play games and do puzzles in the loft at the table.  (Last week, after a particularly long day at work, we housed a pizza there in front of the TV.  It was heaven. )
We had the media unit – which had been a gift from my dad years before, see pic below of it in our old house- built in to the wall.  It literally just fit.

{the piece in out old house}

I had Danish Modern accordion-style lamps hung on the sides of the window seat for reading.  The shades are actually plastic and so easy to clean & undamaged.  (You’d be surprised to hear how often my kids jump into them.)
There’s hidden storage underneath of the cushion, which sports a washable slipcover.  (which unfortunately, needs washing more than I’d like 😉  I went back and forth (internally) on whether to have drawers under the bench or flip-up storage compartments.  For the seamless look, I wanted, I liked it hidden better, but I worried about functionality.  Once I took stock of everything that would be going into the window seat- mostly big toys and toys with lots of little components, I realized I didn’t want it to be easily accessed.  Our kids have to ask permission to get into the window seat which keeps it so much neater.  (Now it only looks like toys exploded in there most days instead of every day.)  They have access to the toys that they use all the time in the media unit where we keep 6 baskets tops.  It really helps keeps the mess down.  (Don’t even get me started on a toy rant… I’m constantly getting rid of them.  Kids-mine SO included- don’t need it all!!)
When designing the loft, we also wanted it to work as a little library for our house.  I wanted to retain the same seamless look that the rest of our house has- with very minimal trim work- and designed little book nooks out of drywall with inset wood shelves:
{Working out the dimensions on all of this was OH SO FUN.  And by that I mean, terrible, but worth it.  Thanks to Mike at CarrMichael Construction for your patience!!}
And here’s how it looks now:

We used butcher block set into the drywall columns to create the shelving.  They’re carved out on three sides so they can slide right into mounted brackets.
Again, the lamps on the walls are safe from my constantly-bouncing boys.  No paper shades to get dirty or wrinkle = a more relaxing place for all of us.
I’m happy to say that this thing is completely organized-  seriously, my husband, a former English teacher, went to far as to create American, English and European lit sections…  We know just where to find whatever we need and it’s so satisfying to know exactly what’s where.
The one spot in which I let form win out over function is above the window seat where I turned my paperpacks backwards.  It’s something I’ve done for years.  These are my Christopher Pikes, My R.L. Stines and my L.J. SMiths that I started collecting when I was in the 4th grade.  I can’t bear to part with them and do still pick one up for a quick read every now and then, but not often enough to justify fluorescent pink and orange and lime green spines greeting me every day when I walk in there.  I haven’t picked one up since we moved in -that makes me sad!- and mean to organize them by author once they’re up there, which is what I did in our hold house.  Once I organize and know what’s where, it’s a fairly quick guessing game to get the right book.
All of my design books are right where I need them (up high and unreachable by little hands) and the kids’ section is at the bottom:
{Chapter books are higher up, then come little reads like the Golden Books & similar titles, and at the bottom, we keep baskets of board books for Lou.  iphone pic}
Every day, I notice my shelves get a little “styling” by the older boys trying to keep things safe from their toddler brother.  (Check out Christian’s new set of school-made arrows top right- I was impressed!)
One of the things I’ve noticed that’s sure to stir up controversy in blog land is the subject of books. I’ve been writing here long enough to have realized that you can’t please everyone on the subject.
There are those that say books shouldn’t be used as props and are meant for reading and bookshelves only, and those who are fine purchasing yards and yards of books in a language they can’t read because they look gorgeous when displayed.  I’m of the “whatever floats your boat” mindset.  My family loves to read and so we have them in our bookshelves and on tables, and pretty much everywhere.  When I’m styling a photo shoot at our house (or a client’s) I usually replace the unattractive paperback (or massive pile of kids books as seen in the pic above) with a prettier book so that the room shoots better.  It’s in the same vein of hiding cords, fluffing pillows and adding flowers.
Am I big on people pretending they’re into something they’re not into so the room looks good? No, not really.  (hahaaha I mean, how could you answer ‘yes’ to that question?!!  😉  But I do see the beauty in a book as not only something to be enjoyed, but as an object itself.   Why not celebrate that?  And if a lamp needs to be raised a little higher on a table, does it really hurt to stick a book under it to elevate it?  People just grab it when they need it anyway.
In our shelves, we put the prettiest books front and center so they’d be more of the focus.  I’m lucky because my grandfather’s been giving me beautiful classics since I was a kid and now gives them to our boys too.  My husband also enjoys collecting rare books and some of them are really special and we want to enjoy seeing them even when we’re not reading them.
There are also those that say bookshelves are meant for books, not “stuff.”  Again, I think it’s just whatever works for the person…  I’d love to have enough room in my house that I could use my shelves only for books, but I don’t and so I’ve slipped in things I’ve collected over the years with our books.  They mean something to me and I wouldn’t be able to see them if I didn’t display them.
{Again, the irony of photo shoo styling:  A paused Dr. Strangelove sits on the TV while my four-year old plays with a magnifying glass and my six year-old puts together an antique block puzzle at a table with fresh flowers and nuts to sup on.}
I helped orchestrate that photo one and pretty much want to frame it because they’re having fun without Transformers!!  (Can’t I just pretend????!!!)
And, although I can’t always share sources for my clients’ projects, I’m happy to share mine:
FLOORS: Seagrass, Installed wall-to-wall
PAINT: Benjamin Moore’s ‘Ancient Ivory’
SHELVES: Ikea butcherblock
CHAIRS: vintage
OTTOMAN: Restoration Hardware
SOFA: Verellen
PILLOW FABRICS: Lauren Liess Textiles, Vintage
CEILING FANS: Restoration Hardware
WINDOW: “The Window Man”
I hope you enjoyed seeing our loft before & after!!
*’After’ photos by Helen Norman… iphone ones by me 😉
Join Our Newsletter

Sign up to receive design inspo, exclusive content, shopping guides, and more.